When I was 33, I had a brain stem stroke. It left me with the inability to walk or talk. Basically, the only things I could move were my eyes, which made communication extremely difficult. I used blinking to communicate and was given therapy to try to get my voice back.
When you can’t move, you depend on nurses and CNAs to do many things for you. Of course, they give you medicine, but they also catch you in compromising situations. Nurses had to see me naked various times throughout the day. Sponge baths = naked. Wiping your butt after I used the bed pan = naked. Changing my Depends = naked. Shower time = you got it, naked. My modesty was gone.
Speaking of shower time, showers in a hospital when you can’t move are interesting. First, I was stripped down to my birthday suit. Next, I had to be transferred to a gurney with tarp like material on it, which wasn’t very comfortable. A sheet was placed over me (not on my head – that would have been too corpse-like) and I was transported down the hall in all my covered nakedness to the shower room.
Now, there were some CNAs who were awesome at giving showers. I had a favorite. She would hike up her scrubs and get just about as wet as I was. It was weird to be totally naked on a stretcher with another person hosing you down and cleaning everything, and I mean everything. But she made it fun. I couldn’t talk, but she’d carry on a one sided conversation telling me about her day and her family. It was like we were hanging out, one of us just happened to be naked and couldn’t speak. There were others who had never given any of the patients a shower before and I happened to be their guinea pig. That was interesting, them not knowing what they were doing and I was just laying there, letting them figure it out.
Then there was one shower experience I will never forget. There was a young CNA, pretty new at her job, and I was going to burst her shower cherry. She hesitantly got me ready for the shower room and wheeled me down the hall, blankets and all, like all the others had. This is where it gets interesting.
Since this was all new to the young girl, she had forgotten to put any towels on the gurney to dry me off with after the shower. Those were needed, otherwise she’d drip water all over the hall, causing a tripping hazard. She replied she’d have to leave me for a second to get the towels. It’s not like I was going to go anywhere. 1. I was naked, 2. I couldn’t move, 3. I was naked. She had taken the sheet off me and left me in the shower room spread eagle in all my glory.
Now, this wouldn’t have posed a problem. Like I said, I couldn’t move, so there was no need to worry about me falling off the gurney or streaking around the hospital or anything. It would have been no problem — had she shut the door to the shower room all the way. As the young CNA left the shower room, I’m sure she thought she shut the door, but in reality she left it cracked. No big deal. But then the door started to slowly creep open. It was getting wider and wider.
Let me remind you, I was not clothed. Nothing. I prayed like I’ve never prayed before that no one, no patients, nurses or doctors would come by and see my nakedness. What would I do if some innocent person visiting a sick loved one happened to see me? I couldn’t even wave or say “Hi, I’m Delanie, nice to meet you.” It’s one thing when people see what you’ve got when you’ve given birth or in the other situations I mentioned above. But I’m not in the practice of people seeing me naked for the fun of it.
I couldn’t just hop off the table and shut the door. I couldn’t even yell for help. I just watched in horror as the door kept opening wider and wider. I could hear the music from “Jaws” in my head as the door was almost fully open. At the last second, I saw the CNA in the doorway. She quickly shut the door and as she stood there apologizing over and over again, I started giggling. I started and couldn’t stop. I kept getting louder and louder until my whole body was shaking. Tears came out of my eyes and I couldn’t even wipe them away. The CNA started laughing as well and I’m certain she was relieved to see I found the whole situation so funny.
We laughed and giggled through the entire shower. She got totally wet, remember I was her first patient she’d given a shower to, but she didn’t care. Water was dripping from the gurney as we went down the hall and back to my room. People were asking, “what happened? What’s so funny?” And that made us laugh even more.
Lesson learned: If you want privacy, make sure the door is closed. All the way.